California Wildlife Photography Workshop Dates Released

california wildlife photography workshop

There are workshops covering everything from salamanders to sea otters!

In anticipation of next year, I finalized the dates for a bunch of California wildlife photography workshop classes, mainly around Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Bay Area. You can check out all the info here:

Workshop dates are as follows:
February 27th, 2016 – Santa Cruz and Moss Landing, California – Sea Otter Photography Workshop
February 28th, 2016 – Santa Cruz, California – Salamanders of the central coast of California Photography Workshop
May 14th-15th, 2016 – Pinnacles National Park, California – California Condor Photography Workshop
May 21st, 2016 – Santa Cruz, California – Brown Pelican Photography Workshop
August 20th, 2016 – Point Reyes National Seashore, California – Tule Elk Photography Workshop
October, 22nd through November 5th, 2016 – New Zealand – Birds of New Zealand Photography Workshop

New Digital SLR Camera Trap Pics

It’s been too long since I have posted some digital SLR camera trap shots so I figured I’d get my butt moving and show you what has been walking through the woods as of late.

I have had the first picture in my mind for years, I wanted to get a deer jumping over a big log. I set the camera up over a year ago but kept only getting deer butts instead of them jumping at the camera. Patience finally paid off as this buck jumped our way.

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Mule Deer buck jumping over log, Santa Cruz, California

Some animals prefer to take the easier way apparently:

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Juvenile Bobcat on log at night, Santa Cruz, California

A little bit further down the path I set up another camera trap set-up. The first thing to come by was the ever reliable Mule Deer (or Black-tailed Deer, which ever name you prefer):

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Mule Deer buck in forest, Santa Cruz, California

…and then, my first Coyote image using camera traps. I know, I know, for my fellow camera trappers this is not a big deal, but when you can add another species to your camera trapping list you are jumping up and down, running down the street (it leads to some awkward and perplexed stares from the neighbors).

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Coyote in forest, Santa Cruz, California

That’s it for now, but hopefully more coming soon!

Endangered Neighbor: Brown Pelican

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Brown Pelican in breeding plumage, San Diego, California

This Endangered Neighbor was taken off the US endangered species list in 2009 due to their population rising to what authorities consider to be large enough numbers. As we all know, this doesn’t mean they are in the clear, but so long as we make sure we don’t repeat history, Brown Pelicans should have a stable future. To do this, we need to look at that history to see how we got Brown Pelicans in trouble in the first place.

Chemical Pollution

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Brown Pelican ‘reading’ contaminated water sign, Santa Cruz, California

DDT was one of many contaminates released into the environment after world war II. The problem with DDT was (and still is) that it causes thin egg shells. Brown Pelicans incubate their eggs by standing on them. Because of the thin egg shells caused by the pesticide, pelicans were literally crushing their own eggs. In 1969 only 12 of 300 nests contained whole eggs on West Anacapa Island (the only breeding colony in California), the rest were crushed. In fact, the nearshore waters of southern California have experienced the highest levels of environmental contamination by DDT anywhere in the world. This was not only caused by local agriculture, but by the Montrose Chemical Company which was discharging hundreds of pounds of DDT directly into the southern California oceans.

In 1972 the use of pesticides like DDT was banned in the US (though we are still the number one producer of DDT, now shipping it abroad), which was probably the biggest historical factor in bringing Brown Pelicans back.

As you can see from the image above, chemical pollution is still a problem, not from DDT, but from agricultural and industrial run-off.

Plastic Pollution

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Brown Pelican carrying Plastic Spoon, Santa Cruz, California

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Brown Pelican about to catch plastic spoon in mouth, Santa Cruz, California

Plastic pollution is a constantly increasing modern threat since pelicans often consume them, thinking it is food. Save our Shores reports that they pick up 60 lbs of trash per beach clean up. That is nuts!!! Not only that, but they average around 385 lbs of garbage per river clean up, so you can imagine how much trash gets swept into the ocean that we simply don’t even know about.

The Solution

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The nice part about this step, is that in reality, it is relatively easy. There are a few different easy steps you can take to help Brown Pelicans survive.

– Eat organic foods (therefore eliminating agricultural run-off)
– Buy re-usable bottles and bags, eliminating plastic bags and bottles.
– Throw your trash away in proper containers, but re-use as much as possible.
-Volunteer with Save our Shores (check out their calendar for their frequent clean up days)

…. see, all those steps are super easy!

If we all take these small steps we can ensure to be graced by the beauty of Brown Pelicans for years to come! To see more Brown Pelican images, besides the images below, visit the Brown Pelican Portfolio!

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Adult and juvenile Brown Pelican in flight, Santa Cruz, California


Brown Pelican peeking around rock, Santa Cruz, California

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Brown Pelican in Flight, San Diego, California

*If you are interested in purchasing any of the pictures displayed in this post, please check out my fine prints page for pricing.*


What is it like putting together an exhibit?


In a sentence, lots and lots and lots of work, but really fun work at that!

The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and I have been working on the Endangered Neighbors exhibition for the last four years. I approached them with the idea of having an exhibit about the threatened and endangered wildlife of the central coast with information about why they are endangered, what people are doing to protect them, and what easy steps we can all take to ensure their survival. They loved the idea so I started to photograph for it while also fundraising for the project.

The photography was probably the easiest part of it all, plus it meant I was doing what I really loved. The great thing about having such concrete goals about what images you are trying to capture means you concentrate your efforts on getting those pictures which I truly believe leads to better photographs in the end. It is almost like having your own magazine assignment were there is a deadline and a shot list comprised of must have images. I can only highly recommend coming up with your own photographic project, I can assure you that your images will be better than if you just photograph things aimlessly.

In terms of the fundraising, let me tell you, trying to get people to give you money is not an easy thing. In total the museum and I wrote over 40 grant applications but got rejected every single time (well that is if you are lucky enough to get any kind of response)….I do think this speaks for my lack of ability to write a proper grant proposal as well though. Then, a year ago we signed the project up with kickstarter which turned everything around. Kickstarter is a site where people can safely make donations towards a project and depending on how much money they donated they get a reward that you have pre-determined. Over 50 people donated a total of over $6000. I will never be able to thank all of those people enough!

So at this point we have the digital images and the money, sounds like all the bases are covered, right? Man is that wrong. Now it’s time to choose the images, create metal prints, create marketing material, thank you lists, products to be sold in conjunction with the exhibit, interactive materials, and labels that are very readable, brief, yet informative. All of this takes about another six months with five people working on it. Thank you to the museum staff!

Finally, the time has come, the exhibit opens up in a little over two weeks and I can’t wait!

In conjunction, the museum is also offering a few programs to go along with the exhibit, including a Nature Photography Class, Gallery Walk, and Panel Discussion. To get more information on these you can visit:

I hope you get a chance to visit the museum between June 11th and September 10th to see the Endangered Neighbors exhibit!

Identifying Puma Gender by Genital Spots

How do you identify the gender of a puma? This is one of those cases where I realize how little I know and how little experience I have in regards to Mountain Lions. I am sure an experienced puma biologists could look at the picture below and say, duh, that’s a male, or duh, that’s a female…well even after doing some more research I once again have no clue.

Mountain Lion Rear View

Mountain Lion Rear View

Mountain Lion Rear View Close Up

Mountain Lion Rear View Close Up

From Ken Logan and Linda Sweanor’s 2001 “Determining the Sex of Treed Cougars“:

“Male adult and subadult cats have a conspicuous black spot of hair, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter surrounding the opening to the penis sheath behind the hind legs and about 4 inches (10 cm) below the anus. The anus is usually hidden by the base of the tail. In between the anus and black spot is the scrotum, which is covered with light to dark brown hair and will usually appear as another dark spot.”

“Female adult and subadult cats do not have this conspicuous black spot of hair. The area is entirely covered in white hair. The anus is directly below the base of the tail and the vulva is directly underneath the anus. Both the anus and the vulva will usually be hidden by the base of the tail.”

So my guess would be female, but then there is that little amount of dark hair just to the left of the tail, but is that too close to the anus. What do you think?

Note: This image was taken two weeks (almost down to the minute) after the second image from the Aptos Mountain Lion Characters Post